’86 Field, 1906 A.D.

The 2008 football team now has the distinction of playing the last intercollegiate game on the ’86 Field. So when was the first football game played on this field?  The name may lead one to believe that it all goes back to 1886.  Well, in a way it does.  The field is named for the Class of 1886, whose members contributed a $6000 reunion gift in 1906 to create an athletic field.  This class also gave their support to the new gymnasium that was approved during their time at RPI and completed in 1887.  Athletics at RPI was in danger of extinction in the late 1880s and students were constantly appealing to the administration to do something about the problem.  Most outdoor contests were played on leased fields in West Troy which was costly and inconvenient.  The alumni of ’86 wanted to make athletics more accessible to RPI students.

The first football game played on the ’86 Field was held on September 29, 1906 against the Albany Business College.  RPI won a very lopsided game, 68-0.  “Two fifteen minute halves were played, and the contest became merely an exhibition, in which numerous substitutes were tried out by the ‘Tech team.” [ The Polytechnic, Oct. 18, 1906]  The new field was apparently an inspiration to the team and increased school spirit.  The first league game was won against Hamilton 2-0.  “When we returned last fall and found the ’86 Athletic Field all ready for use, we knew that this would be a very different season.  Nor were we disappointed.  The students manifested some real college spirit, and the team did the rest.”  [1908 Transit]

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1906 RPI football team

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Spectators lined up along the ridge at the west end of the field to watch the game.

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